It has been a Jekyll and Hyde season for the St. Louis Rams so far. One day they show signs of improvement and a stellar defensive performance. The next game they look like the youngest team in the NFL making mistakes and dropping balls left and right. This coming Sunday the St. Louis Rams (3-3) will travel to take on the Carolina Panthers (2-3). The Rams have played two games of consistent football, but if history tells us anything, they are bound to lay an egg soon.
Coming into the season the St. Louis defense was going to be the corner stone of the team. For the first four weeks the Rams defense looked nothing like they were last year. But in the last two games we have started to see signs of the dominant defense. Janoris Jenkins is starting to prove again he is a top caliber defensive back and Alec Ogletree is looking like the better first round pick between him and Tavon Austin. This week the Rams will need to keep playing like a top defensive team if they want to walk out the victors against the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers will have studied the Rams and know they are a team that struggles against the run. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a duel threat QB that can make you pay. Although he has rushed for a little over 150 yards, Carolina is ranked 7th in the league in rushing averaging 135.8 yards per game. Dangelo Williams also ranks in the top 10 in rushing with 394 yards this season.
It will be a tall order for the Rams linebackers as they will need to focus on containing Newton on third downs. The Panthers quarterback has shown that he loves to use his legs on third and long to get a new set of downs. Look for rookie linebacker Ogletree to have a monster game if this is the case. He was specifically brought in to shut down duel threat quarterbacks. If the Rams do have success taking away the run game from Newton, they will not be out of the woods with their secondary. Jenkins did have a good game this past week, but he also shows signs of inconsistent play. The loss of TJ McDonald has hurt the team as safety Darrian Stewart has struggled filling in.
If the Rams want to win they will need to play consistent football on offensive side of the ball. Sam Bradford in my opinion is having his best season, but it is still not good enough. The Brian Quick and Tavon Austin experiment are starting to show signs of failure. It is not that Austin is not getting the ball, he leads the team in receptions, but he has not done anything with it when he gets it. Tight end Jared Cook is leading the team in yards with 311 yards and two touchdowns, but a bulk of those stats came after the week one victory against the Arizona Cardinals.
In a gasp of desperation the Rams have found a bright spot in rookie running back Zac Stacy. In two games as the starter he has almost ran for the same amount of yards as previous starter Daryl Richardson with 161 yards. This will be key as the Rams need a balanced attack in order to win.
The Rams will be on the road for a second week in a row before they return home to face the Seattle Seahawks. They need a win against a struggling team like the Panthers in order to continue building their confidence. If the Rams last two victories are signs that the team has corrected their errors and has the potential to win games then this game should not be too much of a challenge. If it was all just an act against two teams they took advantage while they were down, then look for the Panthers defense to hold Bradford from making plays and attack the defenses holes.